Aug 02

Boogie Oogie Oogie

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Boogie Oogie Oogie: Yes, I bought the latest issue (last month’s, that is) of Muzik Magazine because of the free CD featuring selections chosen by the vivacious and vituperative Miss Kittin (“electroclash” clearly shorthand for “dance music indie snobs in denial can enjoy guilt-free”; gimme light sticks and pacifiers that match my Tsunami shirt NOW!). (Here’s info on the issue and the CD.)

Yes, I know duck-all about jungle & drum & bass & other forms of the dance music, and I’m undoubtedly subceptible to some review touting a house remix of “The Hokey Pokey” as the best thing since stop signs. It seems like a fair enough read if you’re curious about this sort of wide-ranging, ever-changing musical thing (and fond of rave pics showing girls invading each other’s personal dancing spaces, hubba hubba). However, is it de rigeur for the picture captions in this mag to be so unforgivably awful? Christ, they talk about ironing on some poor guy’s chin, and actually use “URRRRRRRRRGH” (or some synonym – “ARRRRRRRRGH” or “UUUUUUUNGH”) in one instance. And a POT joke about MORCHEEBA – wooo boy. I own 6th grade yearbooks with more decorum & good sense.

Aug 02

Super Bad

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Super Bad:”It is our view that (with the exception of the majority of such e-mails received, which are in, full, support of our position) all such e-mailers should, not only be concerned but outraged, over the fact that a people, whose ancestry suffered 400 years of slavery, can be herded, so easily, into a, virtually, bottomless mud hole and be taught to sling such mud therein, on command, at parties who, essentially, mean them no harm, whatsoever.”

This response, one of two drafted in response to, and vehemently opposing, a petition established by a 15-year-old boy, Rommel Zamora, in opposition to the selection of Ashanti, “rising R&B star”, as the Lady of Soul Entertainer of the Year, is, um, interesting. Where Zamora’s petition, created on a lark, drew unprecedented, and possibly warranted, attention, for Soul Train’s selection, a questionable one if you’re of the mind that 18,000 signatures on this petition offer credibility to this claim, Soul Train’s reaction to this furor has been, to be succinct, unbelievably ridiculous.

In one diatribe, quoted above, the events of September 11th are referenced to both marvel at, and belittle, the 18,000 with “nothing better to do”. In another website post, these meager 18,000 people become a mindless throng of minions with little knowledge, or possible interest, in what it takes to create a show as popular as Soul Train, while also taking a dig at Rommel Zamora for possibly not being black.

Despite my Caucasian heritage, I think it would be clear that any type of publicity for one’s show, especially one so willfully marginalized as Soul Train seems to be, is good publicity, and certainly not worth the efforts exerted by their braintrust in concocting these mindless, misbegotten, comma-ridden missives. If expressing dissenting opinions regarding a recording artist of your own ethnicity can be construed as an interracial hate crime, let alone one of such heinous proportions as Don Cornelius Productions would have website readers believe, then, if there are any officers reading this post, and I’m sure there are, feel free to drive by my office and arrest me, because I’ve been a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad wittle honky.

(Special thanks to Jon Solomon for the 411.)

Jul 02


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The lecture theatre is off warm, a faint scent of natural gas pitched on the air. Some students doodling matrices of multiple Xs or stickmen sex on their note pads, some scripting every single word the lecturer says. On the black board are forgotten Shimura variations, faded Fullerine formula, and ‘The Russian Futurists’ in foot-high block capitals. The room is quiet out of a tacit fear of rejection, of looking like an idiot if you are actually to question what the lecturer is saying. In the middle of the hall, the middle of the lecture, a boy stands up and tears his shirt off, full-on Superman rip, on his chest is inscribed ‘Have you seen my dignity?’ He begins to shout: ‘Equal rights does not include nudity! You are risking your life! Inhibitions? No! Exhibitions? Yes!’ He looks an incredible fool. Standing up in the middle of the conforming mediocre shouting like a mug. Rowdy and lairy – mentally crossed-off the list of all the boys’ Prospective Best Men lists: ostracised.

In order to avoid the uncomfortable sit of fiction in a music review I have to tell you that this happened. In Baltimore. Some of the facts are loose – this is to protect my right of not doing proper research. However the substantive gist of the account is true. It should be apparent now that I’m sketching the backstop for a metaphor.

Aim, release, flow through points one and two then connect. Not yet – hold, bide, don’t go to sleep on the possibilities here.

Alternative rock covets the scabrous; Andy Gill, guitar as shards of split electricity sound. Witness the ascendancy of the Albini sound: the dirt and scree of scraped string and clipped chords. His name is almost ubiquitous in alt.rock circles [blame In Utero]. Indeed, it is arguable that the rutting guitar-rape of Steve Albini’s Shellac of North America, avatars for the crunchy stopanstart fretlove of modern alt.rock, is the apotheothis of this bent. Listen to the records, though, and it’s hard to think of anything less structurally messy. Sure the sounds are itchy and corrupted but they’re all placed just so. Left a bit, right a bit, there.

Tell them about the scrawny kid in the faded Battle of the Bands: 1981 tee-shirt and Don’t Mess With Texas badge shouting up the place with his crazy slogans?

Now, the Oxes: studied insouciance. In a genre characterised by its own dour po-faced guitar-seriousness they are conspicuous. They’re Will Smith at Carlton’s private school in the Fresh Prince. All coquettish cheek and blank irreverence towards formally accepted structures and institutions. The opening riff of “Boss Kitty” churns like a palm-muted buzzsaw – I can see them in black spandex suits, tongues thrust spastically deep under their bottom lip, heads high. [On their boxes.] The structures of the songs are phenomenal – the engineered cascade of momentum perfectly judged. The only equivalent reference point structurally may be the Delgados’ The Great Eastern – though the Delgados’ deconstruction of Conventional Song is not nearly as extreme.

The lengths to which the Oxes push this disembodiment are obscene. If you completely disembowel the song then you re-cast structure – you can obliterate verse chorus verse. The first Oxes album achieved this annihilation but ironically it had no focus. It sprawled and songs chewed into others, grafts of guitar here, there etc. Say, for analogy, album X is full of conventional songs (song A, B, C, etc) and A is made up of 1a, 2a, 3a; B of 1b, 2b, 3b etc. Where this Oxes album achieves over its prequel is in its ability to successfully cheatsteal 1a, 2b, 4d, and 5n+1 for its song A. Little fragments of rock, glimpses and gasps of heavy metal grafted onto percussion – to make one heaving tapestry of all out spizzazz.

At this point I lost my thread and was unable to write a further paragraph. So I passed the computer to my girlfriend. This is what she wrote:

Oxxxes is generally a great album; see above. However, although it is mostly killer, there is that tiny element of filler in the middle section of the album. And does it have an “And Giraffe Natural Enemies”? You decide.

Which is fair. The almost stringent adherence to non-repetition means that the songs can be disparate and disjointed, each section a different rhythm, riff, and momentum. The result being that, as they’re unable to hit a 100% great phrase rate, they inevitably stumble upon a rubbish theme.

Now’s the time to shade the light you’ve cast. Show them their relationship to other rock bands. Follow through. Now.

They’re starkly contrasted with Shellac – they play the same music, differently, from a different philosophy and, unlike Albini, they are punk as fuck. They’re unique, their sound taking its structures and riffs from math.rock and heavy metal. It’s an injustice that I must explicate them by way of comparison and contrast to other bands within their field. But they are utterly indefinable by way of positive definition hence my requirement of negative demarcation. Not just another rock band having fun. A rock band that in their hyper self-conscious genre aren’t afraid to breach their dignity, to stand on boxes, to stalk through the crowd (wireless instruments are the fourth member of the band) rocking, ‘Excuse me, I’m in a band,’ to wear illuminous camouflage cargo pants and strip mid-stage. Why do I love the Oxes? They make me want to talk to strangers in the street, make friends with them; to look the idiot, ask the idiot question. They make me aware that I am risking my life.

David Howie

Jul 02

Back At The RIAA

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Back At The RIAA: Sometime last week, I meant to subject you folks to some shameless self-promotion regarding an essay of mine (clicky clicky) published by those lovable, open-minded guys & gal at Pitchfork. (By the way, the phrase “six to eight teams” should NOT contain any dashes, thanks.) However, I soon found out that most of the points I made in my essay (about the RIAA & the FMC & other organizations completely approaching the peer-to-peer file-sharing problem from every angle but the smart one) are also made in this lengthier, and better, essay (written by Janis Ian). More facts and figures, more knowledge (from someone IN the industry), and a whole boatload of sense:

If you think about it, the music industry should be rejoicing at this new technological advance! Here’s a fool-proof way to deliver music to millions who might otherwise never purchase a CD in a store. The cross-marketing opportunities are unbelievable. It’s instantaneous, costs are minimal, shipping non-existant — a staggering vehicle for higher earnings and lower costs. Instead, they’re running around like chickens with their heads cut off, bleeding on everyone and making no sense.

Jun 02


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Eminem is currently one of the most popular recording artists in the U.S. Clearly a lot of kids can relate to what he has to say (Eminem spends quite a bit of the opening track, “White America,” making sure we know that). We can look at that reality. We can analyze it. We can come up with theories about it. But as critics, it’s our job to separate what is popular from what is good, and what is art. That Eminem’s recordings are popular does not mean that they are good … in fact, they aren’t.

According to Mr. Goldberg, supporters and fans of Eminem’s work are out-of-touch fogeys that wouldn’t know their ass from a colostomy bag. I wish I were a teenager trying to cheese off my ‘rents with some well placed fuck-yous and BIIIITCH-es. Alas. Clearly folks are out of step with decency if they’re praising the groupie-bashing Eminem revels in (helpfully illustrated in the lyrics to “Superman” Goldberg quotes). Obviously, all of the intelligent and smart things Em offers up over the course of the rest of the album should just be pushed aside and ignored, since mutli-platinum rap artists never make disparaging comments about homosexuals or Jews or women or anyone else. They don’t include ladies in their stage shows as caged dancers swimming in uncanned Schlitz. They don’t talk about the Holocaust being a fraud, and Jews as the root of all evil. They don’t make videos filled with stripper’s poles and butt floss. And, of course, any work of popular culture (or “art”, if you’re willing to take that fateful step) that risks offense is only worth the time it takes to transfer the work into a sanctioned waste disposal unit.

Instead of taking the high road and dismissing Marshall’s recorded output in such high and mighty tones, I wish Michael Goldberg simply took the time to LISTEN to the album he’s dismissing and weighed the good with the bad. Dunderheaded comments like his only inspire dunderheaded comments like mine, which simply perpetuates the hype that’s given Eminem the exposure and power to become a vociferous critic and proponent of pop stardom. Sure, gasoline’s wet, but you don’t see firefighters rushing to use it.

Jun 02

Can I Get A Witness?

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Can I Get A Witness?: “The duo’s second full-length, Blazing Arrow, not only exposes the bulk of major label hip-hop for the soulless trip(e) that it truly is, but stands head and shoulders above the best that the underground rap nation currently has to offer … while it’s not really fair to call Blazing Arrow the anti-Eminem, its altogether more literate (not to mention less misogynistic) take on modern hip-hop will certainly appeal to those searching for something with more substance (musically and lyrically) than your average Top 40 fare.”

Oh … oh, my.

Jun 02

VANESSA CARLTON – “A Thousand Miles”

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VANESSA CARLTON – “A Thousand Miles”

At first, I wasn’t all that impressed. The Proclaimers were willing to go 1,000 miles – 2,000 miles net (if you count the distances traveled by both brothers, ideally to different women). However, they were only willing to go 500 miles originally; the second 500 is tacked on as a concession to their fair lady, just to show off. “Ooo, look how far I came to see you! Wow, I’m exhausted! Love me!” Plus, with the two of them together, walking the 1,000 miles … if you were really in love, you’d go it alone, suffering the burden of this pure emotion by your own damn self. Sharing the load is too practical to be meaningful. Vanessa’s willing to walk a thousand miles ALONE just to SEE him, never mind falling down at his door (wherever that might be). That’s commitment. And her sly appropriation of The Magnificent Seven theme (right around the part where she sighs, “I miss you”) pisses all over anything related to that Benny & Joon sap.

When it comes to true love, guys are straight-up stupid pussies.

Apr 02

USHER – “U Got It Bad”

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USHER – “U Got It Bad”

Filler? FILLER? Oh, no no no no. Usher’s testifying (in that modern stylee) – no pounding on the altar, not much sweat, and he only falls to his knees because he’s dancing. But this is probably as close as a playa is going to get to showing some real heart nowadays (and sound like he means it). Fuck hard; love is complicated. And when he’s stuck in the house, having no fun, because this is all he thinks about, and the chorus is sliding down with him … damn it, why’d I throw away all those letters & pictures?

One more chance; Mike, give it one more chance.

Apr 02


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Blink 182 the soundtrack for date rape? Hardly. “First Date,” their latest single, is nowhere near as insidious; it’s nothing more than the backing music for That Guy. You know, the one with style for inches and inches — so much style that he can’t remember to zip up his fly and wash his hair.

You know That Guy – he’s in his brother’s Camaro, “First Date” comes on the radio, and That Guy will yawn, and stretch, and put his arms around the girl of his dreams. And, unbeknownst to him, said Dream Girl will be making out with the captain of the football team, leaving his lips to savor the gentle caress of a well-scrubbed commode, a makeshift speedo plumbing the depths of his crack, and a set of teeth Shane McGowan wouldn’t envy. (Back to the inflatable doll, boyo.)

Now, really, if you’re looking for the ideal date rape soundtrack (…), you want a bunch of party-hearty tunes with good beats that you can dance to (skeevy lyrical content optional). Stuff like “Party Hard”, “South Side”, or “The Next Episode” fits the bill all too well – all of them possess that intangible insidiousness, going from A to B in that confident manner that typifies the gait of a movie slasher pursuing the non-virginal co-ed.

In this light, wanton crap like Custom’s “Hey Mister” is perfect, geared specifically for that date-rape demographic. “Hey, mister, I really like your,” pause, “daughter / I’d like to eat her like ice cream / maybe dip her in chocolate.” Speaking these words in a voice dirty phone callers would avoid (too over-the-top, they’d say, panting) only helps in digging out the niche. What we have here is the undiluted essence of every undersexed grunge / metal-rap / emo / rap song, the sound of unchecked testosterone blasting through the back of a car, all that rage and force compacted into one simple insistent misogynistic pulse. Over. And over. And over.

Of course, the ever-vigilant MTV has decided to not air the video, claiming it’s “pedophilic and offensive to women”. Custom says they’re missing the point:

“The girls like the voice saying she’s not a tramp if she likes to [have sex]. It’s OK … that doesn’t mean she’s a slut. I’m not saying there’s a profound positive feminist message in the song, but at least it’s thought-provoking.”

Yeah, he’s right. I’m thinking that he has absolutely no idea what’s he wrought. He should know better than appeal to our intelligence – when you’re talking about unbridled, irresponsible screwing, the last thing you want to do is THINK.

Apr 02


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SHERYL CROW – “Soak Up the Sun”

Looks like someone’s been listening to some Whitechocolatespaceegg, with “Headache” in heavy rotation. (She even mentions Russians! In the FIRST LINE!) (Well, communists. Same thing, really.)

UPDATE: Looks like someone recorded their Liz Phair-esque song with accompaniment from Ms. Liz Phair. Well, shut my mouth. (I wonder what the Dixie Chicks collaboration will sound like…)